Japan's first Nasdaq IPO gets off to flying start

Internet Initiative Japan this week became the first Japanese company to be listed on the Nasdaq . IIJ, one of Japan's largest Internet companies, went to the US because Japanese stock exchanges won't allow a company to be listed until it is profitable - effectively blocking the kind of Internet start-ups who prosper on the Nasdaq.

Internet Initiative Japan (IIJ), the first Japanese company to be listed on the technology-laden Nasdaq stock exchange, got off on the right foot yesterday on the first day of trading of the company's stock.

IIJ's IPO (initial public offering) of 7.16 million [American Depository Shares (ADS), a mechanism through which US investors can purchase shares of foreign companies, ended the day commanding $US31.3 per share, up 36% from its opening price of $23.

IIJ, which is one of the largest ISPs (Internet service providers) in Japan, raised $169 million in the IPO, the company said. Just over 11.5 million of shares changed hands, capitalizing IIJ at $1.41 billion.

The listing comes as a number of Japanese companies and organisations mull ways to increase startup firms' access to capital here.

Japan's bourses, like the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE), have yet to overhaul their rules to better suit the needs of 'Net-based businesses, insisting, for example, that a company must be profitable before it is listed. Such policies are heavily biased against Internet startup companies which, in the US at least, tend to be unprofitable prior to going public.

Masayoshi Son, president of technology conglomerate Softbank Corp., recently suggested that he may set up a Japanese version of Nasdaq to allow Internet and technology startups greater access to market funding, a plan which reportedly has the support of Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara. The TSE said last month that it would look into establishing a spin-off version of its exchange with more startup-friendly rules.

IIJ was established in 1992 with investment from a number of Japan's industrial behemoths, including Sumitomo Corp., Itochu Corp., Toyota Motor Corp. and Nippon Telephone & Telegraph Corp. (NTT). The ISP lost 1.4 billion yen (US$12 million) last year on revenues of 15 billion yen.

IIJ can be reached at +81-3-5259-6500 or http://www.iij.ad.jp/.

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